An animal rights group has called for a police taskforce to be formed to investigate dog theft and possible illegal dog-fighting rings in the Hunter.
The Society of Companion Animal Rescuers wants police to investigate what they said was a mounting problem of dog theft in the Hunter Valley as well as the groups that conduct the illegal and cruel practice of dog-fighting.
The call comes after media reports this month of a growing number of dog thefts from backyards, particularly in Maitland's western suburbs.
The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday that two Staffordshire terriers, Coco and Dungey, belonging to Telarah woman Amy Shapland had been stolen from her property a week apart.
The thefts followed the theft of Tank the British bulldog from a home at Rutherford days before.
Society vice-president David Atwell believes recent thefts across the Maitland local government area are the work of an organised gang that possibly works for illegal dog-fighting rings supplying them with the stolen canines.
Local Hunter Area Command Duty Officer Glenn Blain said police have looked at all animal thefts across the command over the past six months and cannot see a problem.
"But any information the public can give us . . . we will listen to it," he said.
Maitland City Council executive manager planning, environment and lifestyle Bernie Mortomore said council was not aware of any illegal dog-fighting activities.
"But we would be very concerned if this is the case," he said. "If anyone does hear of this kind of activity we urge them to alert council."
Mr Atwell said Hunter residents should not have to fear that their dogs will be stolen and face a painful death.
"Dog-fighting rings have been a long-term problem, going back many years, yet little has been done to tackle these crimes," he said.